You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Schapelle Corby" + "google"

Is Schapelle Corby guilty or innocent?

A quick google search will let us know:

Guilty = 67, 100


Innocent = 28, 800
(or not guilty = 5, 560)

(and in a google fight of "Schapelle Corby" and "Indonesian Justice", guess who is the winner)

Revenge of the Sith secrets exposed

More later, but some interesting material referenced over at Instapundit

1. Balance of the Force

I've always wondered about this, ever since Episode 1. Why would the Jedi Council want "balance" to a force that is supposed to be helping them (ie the good guys - the relativistic assertions of Anakin Skywalker aside). Here's an answer:

The prophecy was that Anakin (Darth) will restore order and balance to the force. How true this turns out to be. But none of the Jedi can begin to understand what this means. Yes, you have to get rid of the bad guys. But you also have to get rid of the Jedi. The Jedi are, after all, the primary supply source and training ground for the bad guys. Anakin/Darth manages to get rid of both, so he really is the hero of the story. (It is also interesting which group of "Jedi" Darth kills first, but that would be telling.)

The public choice economics of Star Wars: A Straussian reading

2. Midichlorians

Midi-what? Mito-whosia? Yep, didn't understand this arcane Lucasian concept until this insight either. Seems to make sense (although not much in George Lucas' universe stands up to close scrutiny. the New Testament gospels are completely airtight in comparison):

Chancellor Palpatine lets Anakin know ... that he once knew of a Sith Lord able to manipulate Midichlorians to the point where he could create new life with them and also prevent death.The Phantom Menace seemed to indicate that Anakin was immaculately conceived. He had no father. His mother simply became pregnant and raised the boy.In one fell swoop, Lucas reveals to us that he had a plan all along. No, Anakin isn't the sci-fi version of Christ. It turns out his mother was essentially raped, through the manipulation of Midichlorians by Darth Sidious....

Juicy Cerebellum

More discussion of this over at Jonathan's Ink

3. Relativism and absolutes

Directly from Instapundit, and confirming the confusion in George's and every other committed and casually ironical postmodernist mind about even the concept of certainty, let alone the possibility of it:

... In fact, the Kenobi "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line is deeply ironic, since immediately afterward Anakin/Vader plays the moral relativism card, responding that while Obi-Wan may think Palpatine is evil, that's all a matter of opinion: From his point of view the Jedi are evil. The NYT editorial board couldn't have done it better!
...and as a quote from an Instapundit reader puts it succinctly:

You're right about the unintentional irony in the fact that Anakin/Vader plays the relativist card soon after the "only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line. I'd argue that the irony is further deepened by the fact that Obi-Wan's line is itself also an absolute statement.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Major charity says wealth gap growing

TONY EASTLEY: A major charity is challenging the Federal Government's claims that households enjoying the strongest growth in earnings in the past eight years have been those at the bottom end of the income ladder.

The St Vincent de Paul Society says on the contrary, the gap between Australia's rich and poor is growing – a situation that will be exacerbated by tax cuts in the Budget. The view is contrary to that provided by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, on which the Prime Minister has based his claims.

But the charity's Terry McCarthy, speaking here to reporter Liz Foschia, says the NATSEM figures are a mathematical illusion.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gospel and Mysticism

Recently I have been looking into the alternative worship scene and the emerging church scene - one seems to have a symbiotic relationship with the other, although the sequence of genesis is not yet clear.

What I have noticed is a relationship between David Tacey's mysticism and those in the alt.worship community.

More on this in a later post, when I get around to transcribing the notes that I took at the conferance held at Indooroopilly UCA a few weeks ago now.

I struggled finding anything on the web both a) reasonable and b) critical of this type of movement ("alternative emerging mysticism" for want of a better phrase) - and I know I am oversimplifying quite a complex and diverse topics e.g not all in the emerging church scene are into al.worship, not all alt.worship is mystical.

However, I thought to pursue one of the latest and greatest innovations on this front - the LABYRINTH - and came up with GOLD.

Read it here (it's in four parts, but worth your while - it certainly firmed up my understanding of the whole issue):

Mysticism part 1

But many thirsty believers, wanting something more, something deeper than
has been their experience, are also becoming infatuated with two other
overlapping fads. One of these is ancient, harkening back to premodern
times (mysticism). The other is new and considers itself postmodern (the
emerging church). They have in common disdain for modernity, a distortion
of Scripture and a rejection of much that conservative Christians hold
dear. Despite these flaws both are rapidly gaining popularity, especially
among the young, which seems to be the targeted demographic.
Mysticism part 2

Mysticism part 3

Mysticism part 4 (this one is on the labyrinth movement in particular, but IMHO does not go far enough)

The other article I found to be of help was this one: The Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool: Description, History and Evaluation - although not as critical as the articles above, it still has an intersting point of view (thus: labyrinths have a pagan origen, appeal to emotional types, are contentless, experience driven, and solitary BUT could be used cautiously in a christian context)

I''l leave the punchline to CS Lewis, reflecting on the life-affirming validity of 'the journey' amongst all sincere seekers of truth in great faiths everywhere:

"All who leave the land and put to sea will "find the same things" -- the land sinking below the horizon, the gulls dropping behind, the salty breeze. Tourists, merchants, sailors, pirates, missionaries -- it's all one. But the identical experiences vouches for nothing about the utility or unlawfulness or final event of their voyages"

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

National Day of Thanksgiving

The NDOT was on the 14th may.

Blinked and missed it?

John Anderson (Deputy Prime Minister) spoke.

His three point speech:

"The first is the one I have already touched on that Australia is a wonderful country to live in. The second is that in the Christian creed I can find an answer to the great conundrum that is humankind, that we are capable of such extraordinary greatness and yet capable at the same time of such utter depravity. Are we good or are we evil? How can we avoid trying to find an answer to that question? And thirdly, and penultimately, there is an all-powerful God who loves us despite ourselves and wants us to be in fellowship with Him.

See the website...

National Day of Thanksgiving
The National Day of Thanksgiving is a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation and to demonstrate the God given values of honour, respect, thankfulness and gratitude towards our fellow man that have made us the great nation we are.

It is a day for us to pause as a nation and say thank you to God and to each other for those many things we often take for granted but which really make our lives worth living. Let us use this day to be a blessing to those who have been a blessing to us during the past year.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

iPod, sod, this is God

Looking for what I might find on God's iPod I stumbled across the phenom of "Godcasting" - ie transmission via iPod (or podcasting) the true, unadulterated and pure Word of God in MP3 format.

There's even a (yet to be launched) site called God's iPod.

But what really grabbed me was the alternative worship's site with a putatuve tracklist of songs.

While there is a fair range of songs, the comment above is most illuminating:

"These tracks have made us, severally, reach unto the heavenlies in worship, achieve spiritual enlightenment, ecstasy, and generally feel nice."

Obviously God is truly worshipped when we feed God the music that makes us "spritually enlightened" (whatever that means), and feel good about ourselves.

Worship is me feeling good about me.

Where's God in this?

Off listening to his iPod, trying to feel better about humanity.

How to spoil the spoiler

There is nothing like a good spoiler. The one you angst over, wring hands, look furtively either way, and then suddenly decide you will expose yourself to it (or let it expose itself to you!).

Film advertisers constantly walk a fine line between revealing enough about a movie to get an audience intrigued, and revealing so much that the plot is blown (especially those that say "there's a twist at the end! watch out for it!).

Case in point: TIME Australia's coverage of Star Wars Episode III:Revenge of the Sith. Chock full of spoilers.Not that there's anything wrong with that.

What I object to is the incompetent way the poor plebs have this info shoved in their faces - in particular, this poor pleb's face. I could have had a "total media ban" (like the wasted effort forEpisode I) and never opened the magazine. But I wantedto know a little more, and expected to be able to handle the spoiler action. Was I disappointed.

Not only were the key opening secrets of the movie revealed in gory detail up front, but the worst kept "secret" of them all was parenthetically enclosed with comments warning readers to avoid this sections as it contained "spoilers".

After having suffered through the first, real, spoilers I thought looking away would be too much to bear, so I snuck a peak at what TIME magazine decreed was an actually "spoiler".

Here it is (look away now, gentle reader, if you don't want to be disappointed!)

(drumroll please)

Palpatine is Darth Sidious.

A six year old could figure this out by watching Episode I alone!. Why this is considered "spoiler material" I'll never know. What kind of idiotic judgement reveals key parts of the film, yet hypes the most obvious as an incredible revelation?

Dufuses and non-fans, that's who.

TIME magazine, you have spoiled my fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Art, craft, christianity and the power of myth(st)

An interesting read of an interview with Rand Miller, co-creator of the Myst and Riven games. Here's a quote:

"The whole idea of art and the creative process is something Robyn and I have struggled with. I’ve come up with my own definition of what art is, and frankly, I’m not sure everything I’ve done belongs in that category. We can become skilled at many things—writing, storytelling, photography, painting, making movies, cabinet-making—but that might be simply craftsmanship, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as art. Craft has to do with technique and talent and practice, but crossing over from craft to art involves mastering your craft to the point you can imbue it with truth. "

"The line between the two is not always clear. But as you get better at what you do, you’re able to communicate truth, and I don’t presume to think I’ve come very far down that road. I think with Myst and Riven, Robyn and I learned our craft very well, and in the books even attempted to weave in more truth, but it was a bit like shoehorning it in. C. S. Lewis was a master. His stories are awesome at so many levels, and they reveal truth to children and adults. Robyn and I struggled so much with technique, and that can take away from your ability to weave in the truth. But that’s what I strive for. That’s what a musician strives for: to master their instrument to the point where the notes on the page go away and they’re able to express something through the instrument without technique getting in the way. That’s when you go from craft to art."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Royal Roughnecks

Ninemsn (c/- AFP) reports that Prince Harry is about to commence officer training at Sandhurst, the UK's regular Army Officer training establishment.

He is expected to "enter a world of physical hardship, lack of sleep, pranks, hard drinking and -- some say -- secret liaisons with female cadets. "

Where is this place?And why isn't my officer training anything like this? Physical hardship and lack of sleep, yes, but pranks? Hard drinking? Secret liasons? Is this a frat house or a military school?

I suppose he'll fit right in, loving as he does to dress like a Nazi, take drugs and be surrounded by adoring females.

This quote also caught my eye (from an ex-appointee):

"... the moment the parents leave, the instructors start shouting at the recruits.
"It was terrifying. The entire night was taken up with showing us how to iron," he recalled. "

Terrifying ironing lessons. I suppose this gives new meaning to the term "iron discipline". Or maybe "iron will". I suppose this will make him a "iron man".

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Industrial Relations-style Hostage Negotiations

Heard on Tuesday on ABC Am, Alexander Downer speaking about Australia's policy about terrorists (in the context of the kidanapping of Douglas Wood):

LEIGH SALES: Alexander Downer says Australia is willing to negotiate, but that certain principles will not be compromised.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: We're satisfied with the contingency plan we have, but of course there's no guarantee, not by a long shot that we'll be able to get Douglas Wood released, but we'll do everything we can, with two exceptions.

We won't be paying ransom and we won't be changing our policies. We're not subcontracting our foreign policy to terrorists and we're certainly not going to have the money of Australian taxpayers expropriated by terrorists.

No nationalist fervour, no flag -waving jingoistic patriotic slogans about freedom or liberty or self-determination, no, we have our pragmatic foreign minister speaking to the hostage takers as if they were recalcitrant unionists.

Darth Vader Merchandising

I took a visit to K Mart yesterday and had occasssion to browse down the toy section devoted to Episode III merchandising. Just about every item aimed specifically at young children, such as kid's cups, bowls plates, card games, dress ups stickers, puzzles, colouring in books, costumes, masks, bedspreads, sheets, pillow cases, pyjamas etc - were all Darth Vader-o-centric.

Is this designed for 5 to 10-year old boys acting out revenge fantasies about their mothers?

Obviously there is a little confusion here as to what constitutes an heroic figure for children.

From Episode I, there has been confusion as to who is the actual hero of the saga - lots of Anakins, Amidalas, Jar-Jars and Jedis - and, in competition, tons of Darth Mauls, enough to rival Herr Binks. Let's not forget that the character only had about 10 minutes of screen time and two lines of dialogue (dubbed by a voice actor and not the of the actual Maul persona, Ray Park.)

Episode II gaves us more Jedis and less Jar Jars, and focussed on adolescent Anakin - a brooding troubled youth appearing on black T-Shirts and bedspreads the world over. He is an ambiguous character, and attempts to do the right thing, even if he is angry at his mother. So he is a hero in deed, if not in motivation.

Contrast this to the original (and re-release) Star Wars merchandising. The familiar shaggy haired Luke Skywalker appearing on every childhood plaything imaginable. Clear lines were defined between who is the goody and who is the baddy. A morally ambiguous universe we have not.
Vader is "redeemed" fromn the Dark Side by the heroic actions of his son, and peace and justice (Christian values? American ones at least) are restored to the galaxy - good triumphs over evil, light over dark, right over wrong.

Now Anakin / Vader is the focus, marketers and childrens attentions are likewise attuned to the main character. But when the main character is a "Master of Evil", it is questionalbe as to whether such a character is a suitable role model for children. Campbells' Hero with a Thousand Faces is revealed by Lucas in Episode III to have only one - and it is thoroughly rotten.


Article on this cultural phenomeonon published in The Age on May 19th here

Director George Lucas admitted it was not appropriate for children.

But advertisers are still targeting young children through toys, children's magazines and breakfast cereal packets.

Young Media Australia president Jane Roberts said children would expect to see the movie because of the merchandise

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Oldie but a goodie

In web terms, this real Audio media streaming file is ancient (10/3/2003) but I regard it as classic Phillp Jensen!

It's an interview with ABC 702 AM. He is speaking with Sally Loane.

Ironically, the very issues Phillip is addressing come up in the grab for the audio file on the ABC website. Thus:

"Sydney’s new Anglican Dean, Reverend Philip Jensen, has stirred the flock with a fire and brimstone speech about Religious tolerance.

He says we are too politically correct in our tolerance of other religions and that Christianity is the right religion."

Note the easy journalistic use of emotive and faintly derogatory language: "stirred the flock" and "fire and brimstone".

And NO, Phillip DOESN'T actually say, "We are too politically correct in our tolerance of other religions" he says, "Political correctness breeds relativism which says all religins are right which is a patent falsehood because they contradict each other at many points but we should be tolerant and engage in reasonable discussion."

Some quotes:

"The agenda (of the ABC) is to exclude Christianity"

"If some of the things (said against Christianity) were said against the Koran...there would be a riot on your hands."

"The only time you ever see the Bible being quoted is in order to show it to be wrong."

"Often we get journalists talking about us who know nothing about us." (this in contrast to Phillip's examples of sporting journalists sho are ex-players or who have some experetise in the field)

"You assume that the world is not interested in religion...but the Australian community is very interested."

In order to listen to the interview (it is RAM format) - DON'T download the Real Audio player - it is chock full of yucky ads.

Download a program called Real Alternative which is better, smaller and superior.

Unfortunately you can't save it, unless you try and record it with some third-party software as you listen like I did!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Vader is Hitler

In my humble opinion, George Lucas has taken a turn for the worse - the whole Star wars saga revolves around vader - who has killed his ten thousands (and more) - just like old mate Adolf. It is only a coincidence that the movie Downfall, chronicalling Hitler's last days in the Fuhrerbunker and Episode III - Revenge of the Sith should be released so close together, but the parallels are uncanny.

From The USA today article:

“He's not a mustache-twirling villain. There are layers of depth in there,
and people relate to that,” says Shanti Fader, a contributing essayist to the
Star Wars and Philosophy.

Vader may torture his daughter, Princess Leia, and watch as the Death Star destroys her home planet of Alderaan, but, as Luke attests, “there is still good in him.” When given the opportunity, Vader refrains from killing Luke.

That combination of good and bad elevates Vader above most cookie-cutter villains.

and from the Sunday Mirror (UK) (yep, that's right!)

Producer Bernd Eichinger maintains portraying Hitler as a human being adds to
rather than diminishes the horror of what he did. "For me, the terrifying thing
is that he was human, not an elephant or a monster from Mars," he says. "If he'd
been a monster it would take the guilt away from other people - from his
millions of followers. A monster is capable of anything, but everyone knows that
one man could never have pulled it off alone."

George Lucas, man for the centuries, has created the archetypal 21st century anti-hero from the archetypal 20th century villain. This is the work of a perverse genius.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Presbyterian Minister finds God at U2 concert

No, not from The Onion ...but it should be.


In the remaining minutes of the show as Bono belted out "sing, sing a new song", the audience replied to his cry with a "sing, sing a new song" in unison. And as I looked around I noticed everyone's hands in the air. Not the type of hands in the air that you see at a ball game....but the hands in the air that you see at church on Sunday mornings. And then I looked up and noticed that my hands were raised as well. It has taken me 30 years to get to the point where I can raise my hands in freedom to God in worship and feel comfortable, yet it has only taken me two U2 concerts to feel that same freedom. What is up with that?
Because, mate, "Your love is teaching to knee-ee-eeelll!!!!! Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!"

Read his blog for more.

Does this mean that when (if?) U2 "grace" Brisbane with their presence, every Bible believing worshipper will spring to the box office and line up for a date with perdition?

And what about the lyrics to Vertigo? Hymn to Bono's Saviour or what? I am still in the "what the"? camp. How far can you stretch this stuff and still make it sound plausible?

Makes me think about going out and buying an iPod shuffle, personally. Not that I would.